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Losing Tyler MAG
To the observer we appear to be two average high school students. He pores over a college guide, and I write my college application essay. Actually, I chew on the end of my number two pencil, trying to think of words to live by. That’s my topic. My mind wanders, and so does my gaze, away from the blank page. I watch Tyler. His forehead creases slightly, and I know in a few seconds he’ll snap his head slightly to the side to get his hair out of his face. Counting down – three, two, one … His head tosses back slightly to the left. It’s mere habit now, since he cut his hair short months ago.
I also predict in a few seconds he’ll swear in Gaelic. He does, and I laugh. It’s one of those situations where you know the other person better than you know yourself. And lately, I have found myself observing him more and more.
The expression on his face probably mirrors my own; our eyes filled with stress, frustration and bewilderment. Where did the time go? Days seem to drag, but years pass quickly.
I rest my head in my hands, and watch him. Words to live by still haven’t come to me. I have known this person for 12 years. He’s been my best friend since pre-school, and with any problem, I go right to him.
As I watch him, he coughs, and I worry. I almost ask him if he wants to go outside for some fresh air, but it was his idea to go to the library, so I say nothing. At first glance, he looks fine, perhaps a little tired. But I see the circles under his eyes, and the holes he has punched in his belt because of the weight he’s lost. That’s the third new hole this month. Without looking up, he says “Stop staring at me.”
Without moving, I reply, “I’m not.”
Once, when I was nine, I looked up Cystic Fibrosis in the dictionary. “A common hereditary disease that appears in early childhood, involving generalized disorder of the exocrine glands, and a deficiency of pancreatic enzymes.” As a nine-year-old I was very confused. “That’s not what Tyler has,” I told my mother. “He coughs a lot, and doesn’t like to eat. The doctors must be wrong.”
She just hugged me.
For almost as long as I can remember, Tyler has been sick. And it has always amazed me how positive he is. In turn, that’s made me positive. I used to be convinced that a lung donor would show up, so sure the geneticists would find a miracle cure. But lately, as I watch him grow thinner and thinner, my positive feelings have turned into more of a facade, and I worry all the time.
I know he grows frustrated, too. Frustrated that he won’t have the chance to do everything he wants to, that he shouldn’t go to college and waste his parents’ money on an education he could die in the middle of.
He’s angry, too. At the world, at God and sometimes even at me – that I’ll get to do things he won’t. But he would never admit this. In fact, he hides it well. Only I, who have known him so long, could possibly tell.
I’m angry, too, but for selfish reasons. I’ll have no one to talk to, no one will ever understand me the same way; I’m losing the best friend anyone could ever have. God is taking back the kindest, gentlest person I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing.
And I still have to think of words to live by.
I feel a tear slide down the right side of my face, but I make no move to wipe it away; I don’t want him to look up and see me crying. I’m usually good at keeping tears in.
But he always knows, and looks up, and with his left thumb wipes away the tear, and smiles at me. The same smile he smiled at me 12 years ago, when he offered half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to the little girl across the table who forgot her lunch.
He looks at the top of my blank page, where I have “Words to Live By” scrawled, and smiles again.
“Always remember, Lise, words to live by: ‘Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught.’”
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught — Percy B. Shelley
In memory of Tyler G.